Building bridges for youth empowerment. Lithuanian chapter

Last week, YouthProAktiv participated in a study visit in Panevėžys city, Lithuania, in the context of a Small Cooperation Parnership Project, “Building Bridges”. This project has been running for the last year with the objective of expand network among the youth sector, learn best practices from other organizations and youth centers, and widen our knowledge about the reality of youth work.

This time, our host organization was Jaunuolių Dienos Centras (JDC), a social service institution whose mission is to foster the uniqueness of each person while working towards the integration of disabled people into society.

On our first day, we received a 5 senses introduction to the country’s traditions: food, special festivities, clothes… and we even learned some basics of their traditional dances! This helped us understand the culture first before learning about how different organizations are working on improving their society. 

We visited the Open Youth Center in Panevėžys and got to know the different activities that young people have access to there. As they state, their mission is to be “an open, multifunctional youth self-expression, employment, counseling, and information center that meets the needs of young people, helps to solve youth problems, strengthens the motivation of young people to get involved in the economic, social and civic life of the city, and gathers them to participate in solving the problems of youth self-expression and leisure employment.”

The last activity of the day was the presentation of the hosting organization JDC, they guided us along the different rooms and the diverse activities taking place there. We could learn about the diverse methods they use and how they organize the spaces and workshops in order to have a high positive impact.

It was the JDC that organized the International Theater Festival for People with Disabilities that took place on the second day. We enjoyed an amazing festival that they were carrying on in collaboration with other centers from different countries, all of them working with people with disabilities.

After the festival, the Panevėžys County Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library guided us through their Open Space for Youth, a place where young people can spend leisure time in a meaningful way. They have different spaces to share and seek inspiration and organize a number of educational activities.

The day ended with a cultural visit to the Hill of Crosses, a major site of catholic pilgrimage in Lithuania that started its history two centuries ago. Those visitors that want to ask for health for themselves and their families leave their cross on the hill as a symbol of prayer and faith.

Our last day was in the capital of Lithuania: Vilnius. The visit started with a study visit to Antakalnis Open Youth Center in Vilnius. The main aim of the center is to create a safe place and conditions for young people to realize their ideas, understand others and themselves, to express their creativity. The youth center, together with the youngsters, organizes different activities: events, projects, workshops, etc.

We left our team before the end of the program of activities, missing the last study visit to Traki Employment Center for the Disabled (TNUC), whose vision is to provide opportunities for the disabled to develop daily life skills, work according to opportunities, communicate and participate in community life.

To conclude, we witnessed how youth workers in Lithuania have been able to create different spaces for young people from different backgrounds, promoting their inclusion and focusing on diversity. The centers visited were an inspiration and taught us about the reality of different youth groups and how do they work to give them opportunities and empowerment. We are looking forward to working with them on future projects!

The next study visit of Building Bridges will be to Romania, where AIDE, the organizer center, will close the project, leaving us new pieces of knowledge and a bunch of future partners to continue working on youth empowerment and growth.